With Pig Parades and Youth Camps, Taiwan’s Ailing Kuomintang Tries a Revamp
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s main opposition party, once widely feared by political power, now parades through the streets in a pink pickup truck with pig’s ears and a muzzle. This brings life-size pig models to rallies. On the floor of the island’s legislature, its members recently Pig intestines On rival MPs.
The party, the porcine display garnered by Kuomitang, is meant to highlight one of its pet issues, the import of American pork containing a controversial sum. But in the eyes of critics, the antics of the identity crisis indicate that the party, once the richest in Asia, now has to face.
Many see it as out of touch with modern Taiwanese life. Worse still, they see their traditional emphasis on smoothly outdated relations with China as dangerous, as the Communist Party under Xi Jinping takes a tight line against the island that Beijing claims.
Kuomitang has suffered One way Election defeat In the hands of voters like Chen Yu-chieh, a 27-year-old website designer. “Kuomitang’s mind is more conservative,” Ms. Chen said. “I don’t think I will vote Kuomintang in the next few years, unless they make drastic changes.”
Party leaders have acknowledged the problem and vowed an overhaul. He has advocated democratic values and human rights, promised to recruit younger members and better engage the public, and sought to distance the party from Beijing.
“Kuomitang needs to maintain time and modernity,” said Johnny Chiang, who was elected as party leader last March In an interview in Taipei, to rejuvenate it. At the age of 48, Mr. Chiang is one of the youngest leaders in the party’s history.
Whether the party succeeds could have profound implications for Taiwan’s future as well as Beijing and Washington.
Founded in 1894, Kuomitang ruled China for years before Mao was defeated by the Communists, and it fled to Taiwan, where it ruled with an iron fist and was strictly against anyone suspected of being a communist. Dealt with In recent decades, the party has emerged as a balancing force in the island’s fragile relationship with Beijing. Communist leaders recently viewed Kuomintang as their preferred dialogue partner on the island, linked to their belief in a shared Chinese identity.
But Kuomitang lost power in 2016 – only the second time since the direct presidential election began in 1996 – as voters elected President Tsai Ing-wen, who is confused by his close ties with Beijing. The power of Kuomitang has been Fade away Since then.
In Washington, where attitudes against the Communist Party of China have hardened, Ms. Tsai has received strong support. In Beijing, the party is indicating that it is losing patience.
The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, is yet to send a letter of congratulations to the new leader of Kuomintang, Mr. Chiang, after his election. The snub was a break with practice that had been customary since 2005, and it suggested to some observers that the Communist Party was wary of Mr. Chiang’s coolness towards Beijing.
Dialogue between the Communist Party and the Kuomitang has also slowed down. In September, a Chinese state broadcaster planned a trip to the mainland, portraying the party as a reconciliation, by a delegation from Qumintang as a “petition for peace”. Kuomitang canceled the trip.
The ruckus between Kuomintang and the Communist Party could lead to further instability in the already strained relations between Taipei and Beijing. President Tsai has stepped forward to forcibly bring Beijing’s threat back to the island Won re-election Last year. Mainland analysts warn that Beijing may resort to war if the Kuomintang are unable to reclaim power or if the Communist Party feels there is no dialogue partner on the island.
The threat of war between the two sides has become a flashpoint in relations between China and the United States. During the Trump administration, Washington attracted Beijing’s anger by allowing High-profile visits And Arms sales are increasing For Taiwan. The Biden administration has indicated its intention to continue support for the island, and Beijing has responded with furious rhetoric Military activities.
In the long term, Kuomintang is at a crossroads. Dominating the party is a question of how it will navigate Taiwan’s sovereignty issue.
Most of the island’s 23 million people find the concept of integration with the mainland, and many are Increasingly wary of Beijing’s intentions. In the last year’s presidential election, Kuomitang lost because his candidates were Pushed to restore close ties Along the mainland.
Two months later, after Mr. Chiang was elected to lead the party, he sought to play into the significance of the 1992 agreement, an unwritten agreement that is the basis for relations between Kuomitang and Beijing. In Kuomintang’s view, the concept that there is only one China, which includes Taiwan, but each party can interpret it in its own way. But Mr Chiang’s move created a rift in leadership as the Kuomitang elders turned down his proposal, saying it would severely damage relations with Beijing.
Mr. Chiang now emphasizes that being formally known as the Republic of Taiwan, being a citizen of the Republic of China, does not mean that no one can identify as Taiwan. According to Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of Taiwanese and 83 percent between the ages of 18 and 29 – do not identify as Chinese. Survey Released last year.
“We cannot deny where people are born,” Mr. Chiang said. “But just because you are ‘naturally Taiwanese’ does not mean that you should be ‘naturally pro-independence’.”
To sell that message, Kuomitang would need to win over his biggest doubt: the youth of Taiwan.
Under Mr. Chiang, Kuomintang has launched a reform in recent months. The party launched an online merchandise store and a new app, and is making its presence known on social media.
But it is unclear whether the campaign will be enough to change the party’s popular perception as a foggy, old-school elite.
On a recent morning in the southern city of Kaohsiung, about 50 college students gathered in a room at a lakeside resort for a three-day camp and focused on recruiting younger members. Some participants were Kuomitang members and others signed on to learn more about the party.
The students listened as a Kuomitang politician offered advice on social media strategy. Referring to Instagram, the politician said, “So you must have seen that ‘IG’ has a marketing tool, which is very successful.” “You can write some great words on a picture and use it to tell a story.”
After the session, the students continued to interact with step vegetables, braised fish and yellow watermelon meals. 24-year-old Yang Tzung-fan, a graduate student who joined Kuomintang last year over his parents’ antics, said he was told about his honest leadership of the party as well as his commitment to preserving Chinese culture. .
Although many young Taiwanese, including some of the party’s supporters, are skeptical of uniting with China, Ms. Yang said that in her view, the prospect was not so scary, as few had ruled it out. “In a way, we are all one big family. There is no need to separate from each other. “
But until the Kuomintang’s old guard agrees to step aside, Ms. Yang said, it will be difficult for the party to make any gains with the youth.
“They have to solve their internal problems, and then let the youth participate more in politics,” she said. “They have to change the image that Kuomitang is full of old male politicians.”